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Sterling Predictions: Off-season acquisitions, Tkachuk + Murray

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The staff gets out their Magic 8 Ball for some pre-season predictions

NHL: FEB 18 Sabres at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’ve reached the point in the pre-season where tradition dictates that the staff participates in an activity that exists solely to make us look foolish: predicting what’s going to happen in the upcoming season. This will be a three part series, so be sure to chime in with your own two cents in the comments below. Your guesses can’t be worse than ours!

There are a *lot* of new faces that are slated to be part of the projected Sens line-up. Which one of Pierre Dorion’s off-season acquisitions (not including Stuetzle) do you think will have the biggest positive impact?

Ross: Dadonov is the easy choice here, right? Top-line winger, should score 15-20 goals (in a 56 game season), paired with Brady Tkachuk. Have a hard time seeing who will beat him, unless Matt Murray returns to his rookie form.

Spencer: Dadonov feels like the best and most accurate answer to this question but I’m going to say Stepan. It feels like he will be the player who plays the most with Stützle and that kind of impact, if it goes well, goes beyond just putting up points.

Owen: Folks seem high on Dadonov so I’ll be a bit unconventional and say Gudbranson. I don’t think he’ll be good, but anyone will make a better partner for Chabot than Zaitsev did and that could make a meaningful difference.

Nada: I want to say Matt Murray but I also don’t trust any goalie so I’m going with the easiest choice and saying Dadonov.

Beata: Dadonov, for sure. Especially if he’s on a line with Tkachuk.

Colin: It’s Dadonov. I can’t remember the last time the Senators made a splash in free agency that was as universally agreed upon to be good — it likely precedes Dorion’s tenure. He was instantly one of Ottawa’s two best forwards the day he signed, which although itisn’t a high bar, is still going to have a significant impact.

Shaan: I think Josh Brown is going to be better than most people realize. His potential pairing with Christian Wolanin shows a lot of promise to me because Brown has proven to be a solid defender and has put up better defensive numbers than the average NHLer. Really though, we just have to wait for Bernard-Docker and then we’ll be on our way.

Trevor: As most people have said, it has to be Dadonov. He is a first-line player, and although he probably won’t be quite as good as he was in Florida, he’s at worst their second-best forward.

Brandon: It can’t be anyone other than Evgenii Dadonov. I can’t really say any more than the others already have, but this was a marquee acquisition from the 2020 free agent class. How he performs with the likes of Stuetzle and Tkachuk is going to be a treat to watch.

B_T: Gotta be Dadonov, right?

nkb: Dadonov is the most likely candidate, and the surest thing to be a positive contributor so I’ll go with him but I will add that if the Sens are going to beat the pre-season predictions and get out of the basement that Murray will need to have a great season.

Brady Tkachuk has been everything the Sens hoped for in a first line winger except perhaps when it comes to his scoring totals, which have been more in line with a second line forward. Is this the year that he breaks out and goes for something closer to a point per game? What do you foresee his scoring totals will look like this year?

Ross: If Tim Stuetzle can be a 1C, then Tkachuk jumps over 60 points. Without a top-line centre talent, I think we’ll be waiting a couple more years to see his full potential.

Spencer: This is definitely the year Tkachuk takes the next step in production. With better players around him and a powerplay that could actually do real damage, Tkachuk will be a point per game player this season. Guaranteed.

Owen: I can see him going P/G based on how lousy the goaltending will be in the North Division and with players like Stützle and Dadonov now in the mix.

Nada: The team as a whole has improved even if we aren’t at contender level yet. The quality of of linemates that Tkachuk will have around him and the fun he’ll be having with his new roommates will for sure elevate his point levels. I can see him easily hitting 45 points in this shortened season.

Beata: I think he’ll fall just short of a point per game. Yes, he’s going to score more with better linemates, but I don’t think this team is good enough yet for him to be scoring at the rate we want him to. That’ll come next year. Run of unparalleled success, babyyyy

Colin: I want to make the clear distinction that point production does not equal offensive impact — his scoring may go up this season, but it’ll be hard to top the immensely positive impact he had on the team’s offense last season. As others have mentioned, playing with better linemates could help boost his scoring totals by a heap. But I think the bigger key to both is whether he can improve his finishing ability — he currently grades as one of the NHL’s worst finishers, and could stand to capitalize more on all the juicy chances he tends to get in close to the net.

Shaan: I definitely expect at least a bit of a jump in production for Brady this season. Connor Brown was great, but he’s not going to spark the offense in the same way Evgenii Dadonov will. The latter being teamed up with Tkachuk on that top line will help his point totals increase to around a 15-goal, 25-assist pace (58 points in 82 games) season.

Trevor: If he took a leap to become close to a point-per-game player, he’d be on the exact same trajectory as his brother Matthew. That might be tough because he isn’t surrounded by the same talent so I think he falls short this year. In 56 games, I’ll say he scores 41 points, which is a 60-point pace.

Brandon: It’s tough to say, since we don’t really know what to expect from this year as a whole, but I don’t think Brady slows down at all. The Senators are slowly beginning to insulate him with high-end talent, and that will only serve to get him more points. I think 2022 is probably when he really takes off, but I’d be willing to bet that Tkachuk is Ottawa’s MVP this year.

B_T: I think his goal total definitely goes up, but I don’t see him getting to a point per game. Given the shortened season I think he gets about the same goals and around 40 points.

nkb: For all of the good things that Tkachuk does, and there are many, I don’t think he’s quite there as a finisher to get to the point per game threshold. Provided he stays healthy, a tidy 20 goal, 20 assist season with sterling underlying shot and chance metrics are in order.

Matt Murray struggled at the end of his time in Pittsburgh, but Sens fans are very much familiar with how good he can be when he’s on his game. Will he be able to return to form? And how many games do you predict he will start?

Ross: He will return to be an above-average starter, by my predictions. He’s not a .930 goalie like in 2015-16, but he’s also no an .899 goalie like in 2019-20. I predict he’ll settle in somewhere around .917, and start 35 of the 56 games.

Spencer: Murray is probably my biggest concern heading into this season. Like Ross said, he’s not the bad goalie he was last season but I fear many fans and the organization think he’s going to come in and blow the doors off. I think he starts 32 games and posts a 0.910 SV%.

Owen: Given the contract he signed, I imagine Murray starts 30+ games. I see his save percentage hovering around league average when healthy.

Nada: I am extremely excited for Murray but at the same time, the Sens are still a young team that will make a lot of mistakes. Will Murray rebound from his latest performance? I think so, but fans need to be patient with him as he can’t just come in and play here the way he played behind a stack team in Pittsburgh. I say he plays 37 games this season and most probably will be a huge improvement in net compared to the past two years in Ottawa.

Beata: I think he’ll be average. He’ll start more than 30 games, and he won’t be awful, but we’ll definitely end the season concerned about the future of Sens goaltending.

Colin: *shugs* Goalies are weird, and trying to predict their results almost always ends up making the predictor look stupid. The fact that Murray has already swung everywhere on the spectrum of “championship-level starter” to “below-average backup” means literally everything is on the table. But if I’m forced to guess, I’d lean more towards the latter given that it’s more recent. I’ll also guess that he’ll start 38 games no matter what because Dorion needs to justify that contract.

Shaan: A change of scenery could be exactly what Murray needs to return to his Cup-winning form. I think he’ll be good enough not to be a liability on the ice, but I can definitely see Marcus Hogberg taking a few starts away from him. I’ll say he starts 35 games this year.

Trevor: Murray is a huge question mark because he’s been among the league’s worst and best in his career already. Since Ottawa’s defense is still very bad, I’ll say Murray has a better season but not an amazing one: a .910 SV% in 34 GP.

Brandon: I’m confident that Matt Murray will return to form. I’m a broken record, but you don’t attain the level of success he’s had by accident, and I think a change of scenery was the best thing for him. Murray will definitely start the lion’s share of games this season, I’ll say 37.

B_T: I think he’ll return firmly to starters performance levels. I’ll go with 38 starts. The compressed schedule will eat into them.

nkb: Might as well flip a coin in my opinion, but since the point of the exercise is to stake a claim I’ll say Murray will be good but not great — .915 or so SV%, with some high highs and low lows along the way. He’ll get 38 starts and will be the clear number one option.